SANTA FE, NM — The New Mexico Department of Health reported Thursday it has confirmed the state’s first flu deaths for the 2012-2013 flu season. The deaths reported were a 91 year-old woman and a 94 year-old woman from Rio Arriba County, a 67 year-old woman from Bernalillo County, a 57 year-old woman from Lea County and a 56 year-old man from Chaves County.
The Department of Health has 26 providers and 37 laboratories that report influenza-like illnesses from October through May. Providers that participate in this surveillance network reported at the end of last week that 4.6% of their patient visits were for influenza-like illness. The percentage of influenza-like illness has fallen for two consecutive weeks in New Mexico.
“The influenza season started early and rates of flu-related hospitalizations are higher than they have been in recent years.” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Landen. “If you are not already vaccinated, it is important to get vaccinated now.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Mexico Department of Health recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get their flu vaccine to prevent the disease from spreading. Each year more than one type of influenza virus can circulate in our state and cause infections in people. This year's flu vaccine matches the circulating strains of influenza in New Mexico very well. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu is to get vaccinated.
The Department recommends people call their physician and pharmacies. The Department’s public health offices provide vaccine to people who are at high risk for serious illness or death and people who have no health insurance. Public health offices are listed in the phonebook’s blue pages under state government. Contact information for public health offices is listed at www.nmhealth.org .
For information about the flu and flu vaccine clinics around the state, call the Immunization Hotline toll-free at 1-866-681-5872 or go to: http://www.immunizenm.org/flu.shtml .
While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it's especially important that people in the following groups get vaccinated, either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:
• Pregnant women (any trimester)
• Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
• People age 50 and older
• People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and lung or heart disease and those with immunosuppressions from medication or disease
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
• People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including health care workers and caregivers of babies younger than 6 months
• American Indians and Alaskan Natives
• People who are morbidly obese